‘African Americans in World War II’ Exhibit opens at Museum in Michigan

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Howard Lynch and Zack Skiles look at photographs at the Kalamazoo Valley Museum’s exhibit “African Americans in World War II”Nicholas Grenke | MLive

KALAMAZOO, MI – A mentor for Big Brothers Big Sisters  of Greater Kalamazoo pointed to a black and white photograph of U.S. Army General George S. Patton pinning a Silver Star Medal on an African American soldier during World War II.

“Thank God you’ll never have to see a war like that,” Howard Lynch said to the Little Brother he mentors, Zack Skiles.

The “African Americans in World War II” exhibit at theKalamazoo Valley Museum opened on January 12, displaying 40 photographs of how life was for men and women during the most widespread war in human history.

“It’s interesting we’re finally starting to feature African Americans in military history,” Lynch said. “It’s nice to see them get their day in the sun.”

The exhibit on the first floor gallery is on loan from The National Museum of Nuclear Science and History. On the walls are photographs of famous soldiers such as heavyweight boxer Joe Louis and Benjamin O. Davis, the first African American General Officer in military history, and also unknown privates engaging in everyday military life.

Clint Cottick, a self-described WWII military history buff, was touring the exhibit with his daughter, Liberty, and said he was glad to see the exhibit at the KVM.

African Americans of WWII

Kalamazoo Valley Museum Design Assistant Megan Burtzloff prepares the new exhibit at the museum on African Americans of World War II.
When the war started for the U.S. in December of 1941, many African Americans were passed over by draft boards, and fewer than 4,000 served in the armed forces. Pressure from the NAACP and President Franklin Roosevelt eventually lead to more than 1.2 million African Americans serving by 1945, according to the National WWII Museum.

Paula Metzner, assistant director of Collections and Exhibits, said the museum brought the exhibit to Kalamazoo for something different than the other floors on display. Typically, the KVM focuses on Southwest Michigan but with the WWII exhibit they were trying to bring broader, more national views to the museum.

“It’s a place to observe and think. A lot of exhibits are interactive, and this is more introspective,” Metzner said.

She said that she is particularly fond of the photographs of African-American woman on the home front during the war, and that she found them inspirational.

“Women were starting to come into their own in the 1940’s,” Metzner said.

The exhibit will run through April 14 and is free to the public, although donations to the Museum are encouraged. For more info, call 269-373-7990 or visit kalamazoovalleymuseum.org.

article by Nicholas Grenke via mlive.com

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